Sirisena announces reconvening of Parliament on Nov 14


File Photo of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

File Photo of Sri Lankan President Maithripala Sirisena.

Sri Lanka’s President Maithripala Sirisena on Sunday announced reconvening of Parliament on November 14, which he had suspended last month, two days after sacking Prime Minister Ranil Wickeremesinghe and replacing him with former strongman Mahinda Rajapaksha.

According to a gazette notification, issued by his Secretary Udaya R Seneviratne on Sunday evening, the assembly would be recalled on November 14.

In a dramatic turn of events, Rajapaksha was sworn in as new Prime Minister of the Indian Ocean island nation on October 26 after Sirisena sacked premier Wickremesinghe who termed the move as “unconstitutional” and vowed to prove his majority in Parliament.

The sudden development came amid growing tensions between Sirisena and Wickremesinghe on several policy matters and the President has been critical of the Prime Minister and his policies, especially on economy and security.

Sirisena’s moves triggered a power struggle that some observers called a constitutional crisis.

Wickremesinghe termed the Sri Lankan president’s move as “unconstitutional and illegal” and refused to leave the official residence, claiming he was still the legally appointed prime minister.

He also demanded a floor test in Parliament, following which Sirisena suspended Parliament on October 28 till November 16.

Wickremasinghe’s United National Party handed over a motion of no confidence against new Prime Minister Rajapaksa.

Senior UNP member Lakshman Kiriella said that Secretary General of Parliament was informed of the motion.

Since the suspension, Speaker Karu Jayasuriya came under pressure from political parties to defy Sirisena and reconvene the 225-member assmebly.

The suspension was seen as a move to help Sirisena’s prime ministerial nominee Mahinda Rajapaksa to cobble out his parliamentary majority.

The Rajapaksa-Sirisena combine has 96 MPs in the 225-member assembly, which is 17 short of the 113 required working majority.

But, with defection of at least nine legislators from Wickremesinghe’s UNP and from the main Tamil party, TNA, Rajapaksha claims that he is just eight seats short of majority.

According to parliamentary officials, it was up to the parliamentary party leaders to agree if a floor test should be included in the agenda when the House is reconvened.

Foreign governments, rights groups, the United Nations have urged Sirisena to summon Parliament immediately and end the crisis.

Thousands of Sri Lankans also protested in Colombo last week demanding Sirisena immediately convene Parliament.